More Than One Way To Enjoy a Potato in Idaho

So Idaho is supposedly famous for potatoes, well not long into our drive we learned what famous really means. On top of the hundreds of dump trucks filled with potatoes that we passed on the road, the potato fields which we drove through to get to Driggs were nearly as immense as the salt flats in Death Valley. Almost to our friends house we made sure to keep peeling along. From the edge of the empty fields the rocky summits of the Tetons began to appear on the horizon. As we turned onto the dirt road our friend Milan was living on, we were beginning to realize what he has been raving about.

About to drop in on The A-Chutes

For our first real day in town the weather wasn’t looking great to be in the back country so we decided to ski Grand Targhee Resort which would make for our second resort skiing day out of the whole trip. With help from Milan, who works at the resort in the winter, and his super cool roommate Earl, who also works at the resort, we were able to ski for basically nothing. On top of the lift tickets, their local knowledge was invaluable and we ended up being pleasantly surprised by how good the skiing was. On every run we were finding powder especially when we skied what is known as The A-Chutes, which is a hike to portion of the resort.

Looking over at The A-Chutes

Milan ripping down The A-Chutes

The next day the weather was looking a little nicer, making it a no brainer to test out some of the cool terrain Milan had been exploring. We made it to the trailhead faster than cooking a baked potato in the microwave. Being far from the house, our speediness was most likely due to every road in Idaho seeming to have a speed limit of 70 mph or faster. Milan’s driving could have had a little to do with it as well. After finding some, let's say interesting, things around the parking area we starched up into the, as Milan would say, Nunya Mountains (meaning that he doesn’t want to share his secret areas). After a decision to take the adventurous route up to the top, we found ourselves utilizing all of our uphill skills before Milan had binding troubles with his splitboard (a splitboard is a special kind of snowboard that is used to backcountry ski). As the sun had come out and made for perfect conditions we reached the top and took advantage of our hard work. The sun had created the perfect creamy snow just like you would find in your mashed potatoes at grandma's house on Thanksgiving, giving us plenty to hoot and holler about as we made our way down.

Louis finding some steep stuff

Riley about to drop in

Looking back up at our ski line

The next couple days Milan continued to show us more of the quality skiing that there was around Idaho and Wyoming (sorry did we say Idaho and Wyoming we meant California and Washington wink* wink*). On top of the great skiing we found just about every kind of snow quality possible. Even with the non stop skiing we played more games of Catan than we could even try to count and we certainly weren't going to, as we were also distracted by the amazing food we were making every night (if you are asking what Catan is well than you have been missing out check this out Catan.com). Unfortunately the solid crew that we had formed didn't last much longer as  Steve had to head back to work in Sun Valley and we saw a weather window to head south to do some rock climbing before we had to drop Riley off at the airport.

Arriving at the City of Rocks

Leaving Driggs we headed straight to The City of Rocks. Driving through the cow covered valleys lined with rolling mountains we had to double check the gps a couple times questioning if we were just driving to what might have truly been the middle of nowhere. Before we regained any kind of service to double check the GPS, the granite domes and spires reaching to the sky peeked across the horizon like the towers in the many populous cities across the world. To be honest, the moment we all first saw The City in the distance was like what one may imagine it would be like to come upon The Holy Grail with some kind of shiny aura and a perfectly timed choir chiming in in the background (except the choir was Riley's Hip Hop music playing over the speakers in the bus).  We could have never imagined finding this much amazing granite in southern Idaho (wait sorry meant to say Southern California again).

The endless sea of rocks throughout the city

Driving into the park on the dirt road which is the only vehicle access that goes through the area, the immensity of the rock structures began to truly set in. The area had a very similar feeling to that of Cochise Stronghold, or Joshua Tree which we visited earlier in the trip. Despite the snow flurries during the first climb, a classic known as WHEAT THIN, we knew we were going to be hooked on this amazing place.

Reilly on Wheat Thin

Louis climbing up the Gallstone

The next morning we were excited to see sunshine and highs in the upper 50s. We eagerly headed out and got on some great climbs in the elephant rock area, as well as at the nearby gallstone, and finally the uber classic stellar crack line called The Checkered Demon. Other climbs included Conceptual Reality and Just Say No. Before running out of light, we scooted Hermelda slowly higher up the dirt road to camp near Bath Rock in the heart of the city. Before the sun's light completely left the valley we scrambled up the exposed back side of Bath Rock using rebar similar to what you would find on the Beehive in Acadia National Park, or on a via ferrata. From the top we enjoyed the sunset and went back to the bus to make dinner. Partway through dinner we saw another car pull in which was odd. To this point, we were basically one of two groups camping in the massive CIRO National Reserve. We invited him in for burritos and he decided to join us to hit the rock the next day, forecasted to be in the mid 60s.

Tyler on his way up Checkered Demon

Reilly getting on some cracks!

The sun came again and felt better than the taste of cheese cover scalloped potatoes (still in Idaho, sorry). We hopped in the back of our new friends pickup, along with his snowmobile and headed a bit higher up the road to the bread loaves. Reilly brought us up a fun route called Mystery Achievement with big plate like features before Louis set up a cool crack line called Bloody Fingers, another super classic at the city. Our new friend Leo had to take off home to Salt Lake City, but we managed to get on a few more classics that day such as Fred Rasmussen, another stellar crack, and then finished on the coveted Skyline. Skyline included some very airy moves stepping out over basically nothing with 100 feet of exposure under your feet before reaching the summit of the Morning Glory Spire.

Louis high up on Bloody Fingers

Morning Glory Spire

Looking for our route

Concluding our time at The City of Rocks we drove to the nearby Castle Rock State Park which is pretty much the same area just in a separate valley and climbed the multi pitch route Big Time. After a few days of pushing ourselves this was a great way to end our time here climbing up 4 pitches of super fun, more mellow slab and face climbing. Before the weather we were expecting moved in, it looked like we had time for one more short climb. Tyler and Riley got on the climb first before Louis went up to clean things up. Mid setting up the rappel the wind came and it came fast! After an exciting windy rappel we hiked out and reached the bus just as the first raindrops reached the ground.

Tyler on Skyline

This area was definitely special and we were glad we could add it to this special trip. Up next is Salt Lake City and Moab before we need to begin to make our long journey back to New England.

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Castle Rocks

1 Comment on “More Than One Way To Enjoy a Potato in Idaho

  1. Great update. I somehow did not get all the pictures. Skiing and Rock climbing. Just not end to adventure, thrills and accomplishments.

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